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Volcanoes of Hokkaido

- the timescale -

Japan, this string of 6,852 almost contiguous islands stretching over nearly 3,000 km.


It is a volcanic arc built on an ancient plinth that broke away from the Eurasian continent, opening the Sea of ​​Japan nearly 15 million years ago. Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the archipelago has 110 active volcanoes. Strombolian, Vulcanian and Pelean, pretty words to describe the eruptions of Japan having left behind a farandole of conical mountains with perfect shapes and shimmering colors.


We slalomed between the fumaroles that emerge from fluorescent yellow boulders, we leaned over bubbling water in emerald red cavities and we kayaked in the azure plumes that acid waterfalls poured into the sea. All of these wonders are surface manifestations of an underlying, sometimes destructive activity: plate tectonics.


Indeed, the country is at the crossroads of 4 major lithospheric plates, the plates of Eurasia, North America, the Pacific and the Philippine Sea. This subduction zone, among the most important in the world, is therefore of great instability, both seismic and volcanic.


It is not the subduction speeds of the plates, of a few cm per year, nor the formation of volcanoes, the youngest of which are several tens of thousands of years old, which make us realize the power of the energies involved. As for the plants, the rock enters in movement on time scales which exceed us. We build, destroy, transform at human speed, without realizing that the tree is growing and the plates are advancing.


Until the moment they call us to order. The earth trembles and the volcano spits out its lava and ash clouds, suddenly blowing away the concrete house of cards that we thought took forever to build. We seem very fragile in the face of these natural powers.


It is true that on this geological timescale, we arrive late and our movements are so furtive that they might not be noticed. The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. If we take it back to 46, we humans have been here for 4 hours [1]. Our industrial revolution started 1 minute ago.

1 minute over 46 years? A drop of water that yet turns the whole ocean upside down.

Because in such a short time, we have succeeded in transforming what the Earth took millions of years to shape. So much so that scientists today agree to add a very small graduation to this enormous geological time scale: the Anthropocene [2].


But where the drop streams by gravity, the plate sinks in by density and the plant rises towards the light, we can choose which direction to take. Already so many impulses are going in favor of a restoration and protection of this Nature "immobile" in our eyes!


So what are we going to put on this timescale?


[1] Homo Sapiens who are starting to settle down :


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